Posts Tagged ‘dovegreyreader’

Portrait of Tolstoy by Ivan N. Kramskoy

God bless BBC TV programmes about writers! I say this with some measure of regret for the passing of ITV’s South Bank Show, which in my youth was an absolutely indispensable medium for getting major living writers out in front of such a captive audience as was available late on Sunday nights. The BBC used to have a wealth of outlets and strands under which good writers and their books could be featured and celebrated – that wealth has, of course, receded alongside the very notion of ‘the captive audience’… But in this light we must give thanks for the 2-part BBC Imagine devoted to Tolstoy which aired over consecutive Sundays just past. Dovegreyreader, whose excellent ‘Team Tolstoy’ group-read of War and Peace continues here, has written approvingly of the BBC documentaries here, and she also serves up a nicely wry take on their presenter, Alan Yentob, who does indeed seem always to land on his feet when it comes to a nice gig.
Dovegreyreader also points out – as was pointed out to me by my predecessor in this parish, John Seaton – that it is the Faber Finds edition of Tolstoy’s Diaries Volume 1 1847-1894 (prepared by R.F. Christian) from which Yentob reads in the first programme. You can see for yourself if you summon it up on BBC IPlayer and fast-forward to just before the 26:00 minute-mark
Jay Parini, author of The Last Station which conveyed Tolstoy to movie audiences a couple of years ago, pays the following tribute to Tolstoy’s diaries and letters: “R. F. Christian ranks among the great Tolstoy scholars of the past century, and his translations of Tolstoy’s diaries and letters are peerless. I would go nowhere else for the very best versions of Tolstoy.”
And, happily, interested readers now need look no further than Finds! You will find details and ordering info on both volumes of both the Letters and Diaries by following links from here.


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The classic novel by Jean Rhys, whose definitive biography is now in Finds

It’s my pleasure to unveil another strong, diverse and enticing selection of titles newly reissued in Finds as of this month. The nominees for your reading pleasure are:


A Spirit Rises – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Our second offering of stories from this brilliant and versatile author, much admired by (inter alia) Sarah Waters and Ali Smith. Dovegreyreader also offers a recent appreciation here.

A Test to Destruction – Henry Williamson
The eighth of the fifteen titles in the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight sequence, the numbers of whose readers in Finds appear to be growing daily…

The Bath Detective – Christopher Lee
The first in a thriller trilogy by the acclaimed novelist, historian and broadcaster whose own website is here.

Mark Only – T. F. Powys
The latest in our restoration to print of extraordinary works by the more austere of the prodigious Powys boys (see previous post here)…


Jean Rhys: Life and Work – Carole Angier
The definitive study of the melancholy author whose glorious final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, confirmed Al Alvarez in calling her “the best living English novelist.”

The Embattled Mountain – F. W. D. Deakin
Bill Deakin’s scintillating account of his WWII mission into Yugoslavia to locate and assess Tito and his Partisans. Our earlier post on Deakin is here, and Mark Wheeler’s tremendous New Introduction here.

Secret Classrooms: An Untold Story of the Cold War – Geoffrey Elliott & Harold Shukman
A gem of an insight into how certain bright young scholars of the 1950s (among them A. Bennett, M. Frayn and DM Thomas) sidestepped National Service so as to be instructed in Russian for the betterment of the Cold War effort. Fine Spectator review here, and more to come on this blog…

Enid Bagnold – Anne Sebba
Our latest from Anne Sebba, a marvellous study of the brilliant and controversial woman who wrote National Velvet and The Chalk Garden. See Anne’s personal author site here.

Lloyd George: From Peace to War, 1912-1916 – John Grigg
We continue to reissue Grigg’s magisterial sequence, hailed by the Telegraph as overall “one of the most brilliant biographies of recent times”, this third volume the winner of the Wolfson Prize.

East End My Cradle – Willy Goldman
An unforgettable, affectionate evocation of 1930s London life from an author hailed in his time as “a sort of Proust of the Whitechapel Road.” Longer appreciation to follow on this blog v soon…

The Coming of the Barbarians: A Story of Western Settlement in Japan 1853-1870 – Pat Barr
An evocative and apt title for Pat Barr’s indispensable account of the opening to Japan first forged by US Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry – a story that inspired, inter alia, Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History – Roy Foster
An inspired collection of thematically-linked essays praised in the LRB by Colm Toibin as ‘important and original’. (Toibin also hailed Foster as ‘the most brilliant and courageous Irish historian of his generation’, and his fascinating essay is fully available here.)

How the English Made the Alps – Jim Ring
An exciting anecdotal study of how 19th-century English poets, Christians and natural scientists sought out the highest peaks of Alpine glory, driven – as E.S. Turner put it in his LRB review – by “lust for adventure, scientific curiosity, vanity, national pride, the need for spiritual uplift, the geological urge to disprove Genesis, the expansion of railways, the tourist mania, the deathly pilgrimages of the tubercular and, finally, the primitive and irresistible joys of the piste…” Phew!

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War and Peace: heavyweight, certainly

While we speak of genius – and splendid ideas that come in its wake – let me draw your attention again to the excellent dovegreyreader and the ‘Team Tolstoy’ project she is steering in order to bring new and previously wary readers to War and Peace, through a year-long ‘shared read’. As DGR describes it in a recent post:

It’s never too late to start, even if we’re now on page five hundred and something, but you’ll find our previous posts starting back on Tolstoy’s birthday September 9th last year… and we stop by here on the 9th of each month for a discussion …and if you’re really interested, you’ll find the shared read from the year before, Team Ulysses, here…

(Team Ulysses! Of course!)
Faber Finds is, of course, proud to offer R.F. Christian’s Tolstoy’s War and Peace: A Study, and are sure this outstanding volume would be of great help to any bold reader currently putting their shoulder to the plough on behalf of Team Tolstoy.
BTW the amusing image above is borrowed with kind regards from the blog of Katharine Parker.

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The excellent dovegreyreader, who seems under her own stead to do the reading of a hundred women, has posted a lovely, considered and personal appreciation of Adrian Bell’s Corduroy, a Finds reissue that has truly resonated with many other readers. ‘DGR’ says she is reading the Finds edition but has also posted up a delightful jacket of an earlier edition, which I reproduce here. I’d also like to borrow just a snippet of her appreciation as follows:
“[J]ust occasionally along comes a book that transcends the ordinary and fits the reading moment as if born to it and Corduroy did exactly that. Somehow the gentle pace and rhythm of Adrian Bell’s language fits the rhythm of the rural life he is portraying and I slipped into that comforting melody willingly and with ease. I was reminded of Edward Thomas, who I am also reading at the moment, as Adrian Bell recounted his first attempts at ploughing with horses,
‘When I glanced up I was surprised to see the horses treading so slowly. This too I thought, must appear a sleepy occupation to the passing poet. One hears talk of the monotony of ploughing but I found it a keen exercise of hand and eye…’
If you live in the country this book will be comfortingly familiar, and if your are in a town and fancy an escape to the country from your armchair you could head for no better reading. Adrian Bell will quietly transport you to the place where, though his reference is to the cloth but equally applicable to the book, ‘Corduroy takes on an easy grace in wear.’”

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